OR: A Series of Beginnings That Are Also Endings.



On her fourth day there, he leans across her desk for the first time.

She smiles without taking her eyes from her game of solitaire and he feels doomed because the color of her flushed cheeks reminds him of the flowers his mother used to plant in front of his childhood home.

This is how it starts.



Her second week there and he hears her laugh from across the room as he's putting more nickels into Dwight's handset. He glances over at her and she nods encouragingly, grinning.

Her hands are covering her mouth and he sees her engagement ring shine a little.

This is how it starts.



She introduces him to her fiancé on her second Friday. Roy shakes his hand firmly and doesn't smile. He seems distracted and quickly turns to her, "Hey, babe, let's get going."

She looks uncomfortable and her eyes dart between him and her fiancé. Like he's making a horrible first impression and she looks at him as if to say, "I swear he's a good person." But he puts a hand on the small of her back and almost shoves her towards the door.

This is how it starts.



She's been here for a little over a month. He goes over to her desk at least six times a day now. Just to lean there and watch her smile for a few minutes or help her play solitaire or watch her answer the phone.

This is before the cameras. She flirts openly, unabashedly, freely with him. Sometimes she touches his arm just lightly with her fingertips. And neither of them brings up the ring or the other man, but these things are looming somewhere.

This is how it starts.



Four months in, she gets into a fight with Roy. It rains that morning and she comes in looking like she's drowned and drowning still.

She cries at her desk, but quietly enough that no one really notices. But he sees the shaking of her shoulders and the balled up tissue in her fist.

She doesn't want to talk about it. It's just couple stuff. They fight sometimes and today it was bad. It was about- No, she really just doesn't want to talk about it. He said that- He doesn't want to- Just another postponement on the wedding. It was supposed to happen this summer, but now it's not. He won't listen. He-

He crouches a little by her chair and puts a hand on her shoulder, the tips of her hair brushing against his thumb. She looks at him with her shattered face and he touches her cheek, feeling the moisture.

He says, "Hey. It's alright. He'll come to his senses. Look, you're amazing and he should see that. Okay?" He laughs lightly, "And, hey, if he doesn't, then I'll marry you."

She nods and leans into him a little. Her shoulder touches his.

This is how it starts.



On her one year anniversary at Dunder Mifflin, he gives her a thank you card. Most receptions leave after a year, but she stays and smiles and keeps him sane.

The card says:

You're the only person who's ever worked here who isn't insane. Thank you for being my solid ground during the working hours. I don't know what I did those first two years without you here. Of course, now you're never allowed to leave.


She reads it and smiles. He sees her prop it up on her desk. In front of the picture of her and Roy.

This is how it starts.



He wakes up in love with her one day.

This is a year and five months later.

He goes into work and it's so clear to him. It isn't just an office crush.

She looks at him and he feels it like the brightness of a summer sun.

And his palms sweat with how much he wants to touch her face when she smiles.

This is how it starts.



He kisses her when she's been there for almost two years.

Michael makes them stay late for something involving blindfolds and trust exercises.

He hears her say to Roy when he comes up at five, "Sorry, Michael wants us to- I'll just get a ride home with Angela. You take the truck."

They're partners in these inane trust exercises and he catches her when she falls backwards. Her body leaning heavily against his own. And she leads him around when he's blindfolded, making sure he doesn't run into chairs or desks or Kevin.

Finally, they're set free somewhere around nine. He watches her hesitate at the door and then she turns to him and says, "Hey, could you- I sort of need a ride…"

"Oh, yeah. Definitely." He twirls his keys on his finger as he follows her out the door.

Outside in the parking lot, the streetlights are orange and the pavement's wet and there's the moon, waxing not waning. She tilts her head back a little as they walk to his car as if she's searching the sky for something. He can only watch the side of her face and notice how the big dipper is reflected in her eye.

They get to his car and she turns to him with a playful sort of smile on her lips as he opens the passenger's door for her.

And he kisses her, pushing her body gently against the back door of the car. Her hands rest on his waist, her fingers touching his skin through the thin cotton of his shirt. She kisses him back. He touches her face gently.

Then she's pulling away, freeing herself from in between his body and his car.

She says, "Oh, God…That wasn't- I mean- It-"

He nods quickly. "Yeah, no. I'm sorry. It never happened."

This is how it starts.



Then the cameras come and things change.

Then the wedding has a date and things change.

He misses her hand on his arm. He misses her.

Hope becomes some scarce natural resource yet he still manages to find some hidden in the corners of her mouth most days.

This is how it starts.



There's a breeze and it's soft like bed sheets. And she's wearing a dress that makes her skin seem incandescent. And she makes him feel endless when she smiles and clasps her hands in front of her.

He says, "I'm in love with you."

It's been four years.

She turns pale and says, "I can't." Or maybe, "I can't?"

Then it's how much his friendship means to her. But he says the word "more" like he wants her to feel it, see it. Still, he's "misinterpreted things" and he's walking away.

She's illuminated by desk lamps and computer screens when he boomerangs back to her.

This is how it starts.